1988 Olympic Silver Medalist Alexander Varbanov had one of that decade’s best weightlifting resumes, and most of his accomplishments came while competing as a 75kg weightlifter for Bulgaria. (If the men’s 75kg category doesn’t sound familiar, that’s because the International Weightlifting Federation restructured the classes twice in the 90s.)
He was also a three-time World Champion, claiming that title in 1983, 1985, and 1986, as well as a four-time European Champion. It’s worth noting that Bulgaria boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, which very well have resulted in another Olympic medal for Varbanov.
And while Varbanov’s competition accomplishments are incredible — he clean & jerked 215.5kg in competition — his training makes are the stuff of legend. That includes a 222kg/~488 pound clean & jerk done at around 75kg bodyweight. The lift was completed in training in 1987, the same year Varbanov earned silver at the Weightlifting World Championships.
It’s the heaviest clean & jerk we’ve seen on video for someone roughly that bodyweight — an astonishing 147 kilograms above bodyweight. It almost (almost!) makes some of Lu Xiaojun’s best training feats seem a little ordinary by comparison.
Varbanov’s performance at the 1988 Seoul Games can be seen in this video of the competition posted by Frank Rothwell. Fellow Bulgarian lifter Borislav Gidikov took first in that competition.
Varbanov’s last major international medal came at the 1989 European Championships in Athens, where he finished with silver.
Alexander now lives and coaches in Ontario, Canada. His son — Nikolay Varbanov — is a young and accomplished weightlifter in his own right. Below is a video of Nikolay competing in the Ontario Championships this spring, setting multiple provincial records in the process. (Nikolay was lifting in the 69kg category.)
Looks like the Varbanov name will stick around elite-level weightlifting for some time to come.